As French teachers, one of our primary goals is to help our students feel comfortable and confident speaking and learning the language. However, it’s important to remember that students won’t be able to reach their full potential if they don’t feel like they’re part of a supportive community. Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take to build classroom community with your French students.
Want to build classroom community? Here are some simple steps to building a fun, inclusive environment that helps students thrive.
Start with Icebreakers
If you’re just starting the year or have a new set of students, it’s always a good idea to begin with some fun icebreakers. This will allow students to get to know each other better and feel more comfortable in the classroom. Letting students get to know each other (and you!) will definitely boost morale and create a sense of camaraderie among your students.
Because so many French teachers teach the same students multiple years in a row, my French ice-breakers set has 5 different ice-breaker activities in both French and English, so they can be used with advisory classes or even on the first day of French 1! I have used the same pack for years and I can easily change the activity to adapt the difficulty.
Incorporate Group Work
Assigning group projects or class presentations can be a great way to build classroom community as you encourage students to work together and form bonds with one another. When they’re collaborating with their peers, they’ll learn to build on each other’s strengths and find common ground. By giving them a shared goal to work towards, they’ll become more invested in their work and feel more connected to the class as a whole.
While I do a ton of group work in my classroom (because they have to speak French with others all the time, right?) I know that one of the quickest ways to break down a community is to grade students based on their classmates’ work. I don’t want to create resentment if a student works a little less or if someone tries to dominate the group. Anytime I do a group project, everyone gets their own grade!
Celebrate Successes Together
Whenever a student succeeds, make sure to celebrate and recognize their achievements as a group. This will not only encourage the student who accomplished the task, but it will also help instill pride and build classroom community among the rest of the students. You can create a bulletin board to display outstanding student work or have a “Student of the Week” that you can celebrate together as a class.
We love using Quizlet, and I have a “Stars of Quizlet” board where I post usernames of students who are practicing often or those who get a high score on a study set. It’s a fun way to celebrate students while encouraging them to study outside of class.
Let Students Share Their Interests
Encourage students to bring a piece of their culture into the classroom, whether it be a traditional food, a song, or an artwork. This is a great way for students to learn more about each other and to appreciate the rich diversity that exists within the class.
During Covid, my son was online for a full year! This meant that it was really hard to build classroom community when the new school year started. Each week, they did a show and tell and they got to share something about themselves. Even as a 5th grader, he got so excited about this all year long! Students love to share what matters to them, so build in time for that to happen – even if you teach high school.
I know this sounds obvious, but I can’t tell you how many students have told me that above anything else, this is what they remembered about my class. Our more introverted students can go all day without speaking, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to talk. They often just want us to talk to them first.
School can be really boring. I am not someone who can sit and listen to other people all day. I don’t know a lot of us who can! So why as a teacher would I plan a lesson where kids sit in their desks all day?
I have always tried my hardest to make sure we play a game or do a speaking activity in every class I can. Why? They need to spend time with each other using the language, of course, but they also need to have fun! I want my class to always be a place they want to be, even if they don’t love studying French. I try to build classroom community by making it a place they are excited to be.
Board games are a really fun way to let students work with the French vocabulary they’re learning in an interactive and relaxed way. I keep them on-hand for every unit! Some days, it’s part of my structured lesson, but other times, we finish our work early and just play for fun.
Starting to build classroom community with your French students may seem like a tall order, but it’s actually a lot simpler than you might think. It’s an ongoing process that requires effort and commitment, but the rewards are well worth it.